In St. Louis, PCAH Director Says Arts Education Should Play a Significant Role in Education Reform

In a keynote address to formally open the 2012 Biennial Music Educators National Conference on Thursday, March 29, Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), said arts education is key to helping to give all students a high-quality education.

However, she said the committee sees arts education as a “wrench” to help repair what is wrong, not as a “flower.”

Goslins discussed the 2011 PCAH report, Reinvesting in the Arts: Winning America’s Future through Creative Schools. She said the 18-month study looked at arts education at Title 1 schools. In terms of teaching leadership, creativity, and critical thinking, “the arts have a large footprint,” she added.

Rachel Goslins talks with participants after the general session

The report says the challenges schools face include

  • Achievement gaps
  • Dropout rates
  • Narrow curriculums
  • Teaching efficacy
  • Declining access to arts education

Goslins said those create opportunities for

  • New allies
  • New research
  • Energy around school reform
  • New resources

To read the complete report visit

Scott C. Shuler

At the session, Scott C. Shuler, president of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), also noted an increasing gap in access to arts education when comparing privileged and less privileged schools.

He also said some federal policies, such as achievement-based teacher evaluations, make it harder to maintain a well-rounded curriculum for students. Reduced exposure to art education means less participation in the arts when those young people grow up.

Janet R. Barrett, chair of the Society for Music Teacher Education (SMTE), said “Much is at stake here,” and adding high-quality music education for students requires “well-supported teachers,” strong sequential programs, and the ability to teach musicianship.

For that reason, she said visiting artists, which the PCAH reports as one option to create an arts presence in schools, “are not the same” as qualified music teachers.

Janet R. Barrett

And while the report argues that arts programs could cure ills like high dropout rates, Barrett said “We have a role to play, but we don’t want to be marginalized. We don’t want to forget our arts-based mission.”

Music teacher Jennifer Shenberger directs a brass sextet from Clayton (Missouri) to to open the session.

Look for Biennial Conference updates at

Roz Fehr, March 29, 2012. © National Association for Music Education (